Best Mini Metal Lathe for the Money | Top 5 Reviews and Buyers Guide

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mini metal lathe

A mini metal lathe is an excellent addition to any workshop, and as their name suggests, they are more compact than their full-size compatriots and way cheaper too! These machines enable you to cut, machine, and notch all types of metals, ideal for beginners and professionals. There are certain features to take into consideration before you buy one.

First of all, check the tool’s dimensions to make sure you have enough room to move around the lathe while working on your project. Secondly, you need to determine two essential specifications your equipment has to have; swing over distance and the distance between centers, which means how thick or wide your project is and how long your project is. 

Despite their relatively affordable price (in comparison to a full-size metal lathe), you’ll still be parting with a few hundred dollars, and so you must do your research; otherwise, you could end up with a costly mistake. These machines can be complex for any beginner, so to help you understand more about the mini metal lathes on offer, we have compiled a comprehensive review of five of the best machines, along with a buyer’s guide.


Here’s a quick rundown of what we discuss in this best mini metal lathe review article:

  • First, we compare our top 5 picks side-by-side in a comparison table, highlighting our Best Overall and Best Value models
  • Next, we take a deep dive into their features and benefits you’ll find useful
  • Then, we’ll highlight their drawbacks you will need to know about
  • And finally, our buying guide will give you a much better insight into the product range

Sound good?  Let’s begin!

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Our Favorite Mini Metal Lathes | Comparison Table:

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5 Best Mini Metal Lathes | Product Reviews

 

1. BestEquip Mini Metal Lathe (Best Overall)

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • 2250RPM powerful motor
  • Variable speed control
  • Superb overall performance
  • Very durable
  • Clockwise & counter-clockwise spindle rotation
Cons
  • Metric readouts

 

2. Mophorn 7×12 Precision Mini Benchtop Lathe (Best Value)

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Max 2500RPM
  • Emergency stop button
  • Nylon gears
  • Versatile
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Best suited to small projects only

 

3. Shop Fox M1015 6-Inch by 10-Inch Micro Lathe

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Gear ratio threading chart included
  • Automatic and manual feed
  • 2-year warranty
Cons
  • Suited for beginners & hobbyists only
  • Some issues with customer service

 

4. TECHTONGDA Brushless Motor Precision Bench Lathe

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Max 2500RPM
  • Metal gears and bearings
  • Versatile use
Cons
  • Metric scale only

 

5. Erie Tools 7 x 14 Precision Benchtop Mini Metal Milling Lathe

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Either rotation
  • Max 2500RPM
  • Optional auto feed
Cons
  • Small projects only
  • You pay for return shipping

Video: Mini Metal Lathe Basic Setup and Operation

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Best Mini Metal Lathe for 2021 – Buyers Guide

What to Know Before Buying a Mini Metal Lathe

If you are like most people, the chances are that you will be indecisive when confronted with several options that look almost similar. So, how do you determine the suitable mini lathe for your needs? Here are the top 8 factors to consider before buying a mini-lathe.

Size of Your Project

With this, we mean how big your metal turning projects are. Answering this question will help you determine the proper specifications of the mini-lathe that suits you. Specifically, you should look at the swing over distance as well as the distance between centers.

Swing over distance or swing over bed (SOB) is the maximum diameter of a workpiece that the said mini-lathe can handle. This means how wide or thick your project can be. For instance, are you planning to work on thinner projects such as table legs or large wooden bowls?

Conversely, the distance between centers (DBC) refers to the maximum length of the material that a mini lathe can accommodate. By this, we mean how long your projects can be. It is essential to check these two things to ensure that the equipment you choose can handle the size of the tasks at hand.

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Lathe Dimensions

Mini metal lathes come in varying sizes, with industrial lathes having the largest sizes. To know the right size of a mini lathe to go for, you should consider several factors, such as the type of project in hand as well as the space in your workshop. If you have a compact or restricted area, then we wouldn’t recommend that you go for a large-sized lathe. Big lathes need adequate space for optimal usage.

Spindle Speed

The best mini lathe should feature variable speed control capabilities. A lathe meant for use at home should have between 30RPM and 1200RPM. If you want lathes that can perform more intensive tasks, you should go for machines that can handle anything above 2000RPMs. However, RPM should not be a bother to you since you will rarely need high-speed rotations, except when working on projects that require a lot of polishing.

Drive System

Mini lathes come with different capacities and drive systems, with some using variable electronic speed drives while others use the V belt drive mechanism. The V-belt drive is excellent for large mass production as they allow for improved bending. This increases the efficiency of the mini-lathe during use. What’s more, the v-belt drive can manage better speeds, which is excellent for metalwork.

Power

Another critical factor you need to consider when buying a mini metal lathe is power. Small mini lathes typically feature electrical motors that range from 1-3HP. Beyond that, you can easily find mini-lathes that can operate on a regular single-phase supply, which means you can plug them into your home outlet. 3-phase power supply mini lathes will need a converter or inverter.

Accessories / Additional Features

What makes a lathe versatile are the accessories or additional features it has. Other features help enhance the quality of work and add an extra layer of protection. 

One of the popular additions to a wood lathe is indexing heads. Some models can come with a 12-position indexing head, while others will come with a 24-position indexing head. The more position an indexing head has, the more patterns you can add, such as different hole drilling patterns and decorative finishes. 

Another accessory is faceplates. This helps you to add threads into a spindle. Many other accessories come with different mini lathes- you should choose one with accessories that will help enhance your work. 

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Warranty

Mini lathes call for a significant investment, and thus you will need some assurance that you will get good value for your money. That’s why you should go for lathes that are backed by an extensive warranty period. Most mini lathes come with 2-year warranties.

Metal Lathe vs. Mini Metal Lathe

Most people confuse these two categories of lathes, and we will try to help you understand the distinction between the two. Metal lathes are primarily designed to help with metalworking and some more rigid composites. We can term metal lathe as an umbrella term for different kinds of lathes used for metalworking. There are many types within the umbrella within the umbrella, including center lathes, gang-tool lathes, turret lathes, and more.

The most common type of metal lathe is the mini metal lathe. These lathes commonly have swing distances ranging from 3-7 inches and diameters of 1.5-3.5 inches. They are affordable and thus ideal for smaller projects and home workshops.

Benefits of Investing In a Mini Metal Lathe

–  Space Saver

Most mini metal lathes come in compact space, which means that they will not take up much space in your workshop. What’s more, they are versatile and thus will replace other equipment.

–  Versatility

Indeed, mini metal lathes are primarily designed to be used on metalworking tasks, but you can use them to work on wood and tempered plastic. In addition to using them on brass, aluminum, and steel, you can use them for woodworking.

–  Variety of Uses

You can use a mini metal lathe to make different metal works of various patterns and designs. For instance, you can use it for jewelry making, creating home decor, and drilling holes on metal and wood. This makes it an excellent investment for anyone with a workshop.

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Conclusion

All of the five mini metal lathes reviewed have good features and are well-built machines. The Best Equip (Best Overall) and Techtonga are in the higher price bracket but, the Best Equip (Best Overall) has more quality features, good SOW, and DBC for maximum diameter and length of material, performs with ease and flexibility, and is a durable, robust, sturdy, accurate machine for both beginner and professional machinist. 

The Mophorn (Best Value), Shop Fox, and Eerie are in the middle price range.  All are ideal machines for the smaller projects but the Mophorn (Best Value) has many more features, good SOW, and DBC and is a well-built solid machine for a reasonable price.

We hope you have found these reviews helpful and informative, and you now better understand the complexities of the mini metal lathe and make an informed decision on which machine is best suited to your needs.


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Walter Snyder